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Resilience, Agency and Coping with Hardship: Evidence from Europe during the Great Recession

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This paper aims to contribute to the growing literature on resilience by focusing on coping with hardship during the Great Recession, drawing upon primary data gathered through household and key informant interviews in nine European countries. As the resilience approach highlights agency, the paper examines the nature of household responses to hardship during this period on the basis of the ‘structure-agency problem’. An important contribution of this paper is to identify different forms of agency and discuss their implications. More specifically, we conceptualise three different types of agency in coping with hardship: absorptive, adaptive and transformative. Analysis of the findings indicates that structural constraints remain prominent. Most coping mechanisms fall under the category of absorptive and adaptive agency characterised here as burden-bearing actions that ‘conform’ to changing circumstances rather than shaping those circumstances.

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Journal of Social Policy
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